Ugandan government negotiates with Bahati over antigay bill

According to an AllAfrica summaryof a Daily Monitor article that I cannot find, members of the Ugandan Cabinet met with David Bahati, author of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and asked him to withdraw the bill in favor of other legislation which would do the same thing.

A Cabinet sub-committee formed to study the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2010 and report back to Cabinet, yesterday added a spin into the Bill and called for its withdrawal.
In a closed-door meeting with Mr David Bahati, the mover of the Bill, the sub-committee said some of the penalties proposed in the Bill could be catered for by the Penal Code Act and the yet-to-come Sexual Offences Bill.



Sources, who attended the meeting, said the sub-committee, chaired by First Deputy Premier Eriya Kategaya, suggested that if Mr Bahati did not mind a lot, he could withdraw the Bill. “They said Cabinet doesn’t agree with the death penalty which the Bill proposes,” a source, who cannot be named because they are not authorised to speak on behalf of Cabinet, said. “They asked Bahati to drop the Bill if he doesn’t care much.”

I have spoken to David Bahati on several occasions, and I know he cares a lot, so I am not surprised by his reported take on the meeting.

Sources also said Mr Bahati went with Commissioners Denis Obua and Justine Lumumba and MPs Beatrice Lagada, Wilfred Niwagaba and Fred Nkaayi. Mr Bahati acknowledged meeting the subcommittee but refuted claims that he had been asked to withdraw the Bill. “The meeting was purposed to build a win-win situation so that we improve on the Bill but we continue upholding the values of our country.”
Early last year after meeting Cabinet over the Bill, Mr Bahati said he was willing to amend the proposed law but “without putting the values of the country at risk”. The sub-committee was set up by President Museveni after pressure from the US and other countries in Europe to drop the Bill.

Earlier today I had an email exchange with a member of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee who told me that the committee will raise the issue before Parliament as a matter of urgent concern next week. However, he added that the bill would probably not be considered this session in part due to an upcoming Easter recess.
According to these minutes of Parliament from 2004, the Sexual Offences Bill has been discussed since about 2001.

On the issue of defilement, Sir, Sexual Offences Bill has been pending for more than three years. We had hoped that it would come to Parliament sooner than later…

I have asked several insiders there for a copy of the SOB but none of them have seen it. International observers who assume that the end of the Parliament will bring the end of the effort to toughen laws against homosexual behavior and free speech are probably wrong. The govt’s call for withdrawal is more of a political maneuver than an expression of a difference over outcomes.